Saturday, 28 April 2012


despite the game scheduled to finish tomorrow, i can write with some confidence that essex's LVCC championship match against northants will end in a draw. i spent two hours sitting in the cold and raafter in at the ford county ground before i saw sense and gave up. at the time this blog was written, there was only one session to speak of and one that the essex batsmen will be keen to erase from their memories. unsurprisingly ater winning the toss, the visitors put essex in to bat. the northants seamers reaped the benefits of the great bowling conditions, reducing essex to 54-6 after twenty seven overs. mark pettini the only eagles batsman to reach double figures ending day two on 16*. jack brooks, who was recently called into the england lions' side to face the west indies, bowled beautifully and took four wickets out of the six northants wickets. maybe the rain did essex a favour after all. there's been a lot of arguments this week surrounding the timing of the county championship - claiming it started too early (although most of the critics are ex-batsmen, hardly a coincidence you feel!) but at the end of the day, it's not the ecb's fault that british weather is as unpredictable as what it has been this year. many seem to forget the fantastic, sunny april we all experienced then. after all what do people want - shall we move domestic cricket over to australia or south africa?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

yorkshire (a) 19th-22nd april, yorkshire vs essex, headingley.

as to be expected, the weather will play a huge role in many games played in april and at a wet and miserable headingley, it was definitely game, set and match to the rain. not one ball was bowled on day one, already signficantly damaging the chances of a positive result from the game. start of day two,yorkshire won the toss and chose to bat; a fantastic century from jaques putting yorkshire in a great position before a batting collapse of epic proportions - losing six wickets for just 21 runs. young left-armer mills picking up four wickets and the ever impressive masters with figures of 3-65. unsurprisingly for those who watch essex on a regular basis, it was same old, same old: great work by the bowlers quickly undone by the essex batsmen. ravi bopara, back from england's tour of sri lanka, kept the eagles in the game with a fantastic 117*. the second highest contribution was just 25 from captain james foster. the same problem never resolved despite an impressive batting line up (on paper at least). take nothing away from the yorkshire bowlers; sidebottom and patterson took eight wickets between them and bowled majestically. yorkshire started their second innings well and with the rain seemingly nowhere to be seen, fancied their chances of winning the game. root and sayers putting on 106 before root was caught behind off the bowling of all-rounder greg smith for 67. sayers and gale added crucial runs as yorkshire declared on 212-4, setting the visitors 262 to win. openers petersen and godleman both falling lbw to shazhad quickly, with the game slowly slipping away from essex. luckily the rain dance worked and no more play was possible on day four. the match was abandoned and essex somehow escaped with a draw.

gloucestershire (h)

5-7th april, essex vs gloucestershire, chelmsford.

essex win by an innings & 38 runs

what a way to start the season! promotion hopefuls essex were inevitably favourites for their opening competitive match of 2012 and pulled off an emphatic victory in just two and a half days. last season was particularly disappointing for essex fans but the opposition enjoyed a much better 2011, in the county champhionship at least, finishing above the eagles - many believed they had massively overachieved.

so much for the start of summer, the coats and blankets were out at a very cold and cloudy chelmsford on day one. gloucs won the toss and as expected elected to field in seemingly great bowling conditions. despite the early loss of petersen, a new addition to the essex squad, his opening partner billy godleman made a solid century - putting the eagles in a fantastic position. with valuable contributions from smith, wheater and foster; essex posted a great score of 364 all out.

essex, with arguably one of, if not the best bowling attack in division two, knew the task ahead. they needed to bowl gloucs out twice, with not much time to play with. the weather forecast did not look good - traditional english april weather!'

the bowlers did the business again for essex. in fact, they did it twice! gloucs were bowled out for 180 and 146 as the game drew to a rapid conclusion after just two and a half days. the visitors were bowled twice in four sessions as fast bowlers napier and masters shone - each taking a 5fer in each innings.

Friday, 13 April 2012

at last; second test, colombo

yes, this is a week late and i have no excuses.

a long, hard international winter meant england had to win in colombo to draw the series or drop down the rankings, losing their status as number one in the world. all winter the bowlers had performed fantastically, only to be let down by a poor showing from the batsmen, particularly against spin. going into the second test, england had only passed the 300 mark once all winter long; very disappointing for the best side in the world with a team full of world class batsmen.

but finally it happened - a good performance with the bat from england! after bowling sri lanka out for a modest 275, this match was surely just waiting for a traditional english batting collapse.
again like the first test, jayawardene was the shining star for the hosts and yet again, jimmy anderson dismissed sangakkara first ball. on a more positive note for sri lanka, the captain this time had teammates to build decent partnerships with, both samaraweera & mathews passed fifty. swann and anderson picking up seven wickets between them.

for the first time all winter, england's opening partnership of strauss and cook looked comfortable at the crease despite the early introduction of spin. the pair put on 122 before strauss fell to dilshan on 61. cook and trott both scored big runs, scoring 94 and 64 respectively. but there was only one name on everybody's lip at the end of england's first innings: a certain mr. kevin pietersen. his superb, yet controversial 151 off 165 balls (including sixteen fours and six sixes) put england in a fantastic position. the controversy occured with the infamous switch-hit, which did not impress former sri lankan dilshan who was obviously furious with pietersen. as long as no rule was broken, which it wasn't, the argumentative dilshan has very little to complain about. england were all out for 460 and finally, the batsmen backed up the great work by the bowlers.

graeme swann was the pick of the england's bowlers with six wickets as sri lanka failed to post a big score and force the draw in colombo. only one player (guess who?) passed fifty for the hosts and england's target was just 94: despite being bowled out for less in the UAE, england's improved batting in the first innings here meant england were confident of knocking off the runs, and doing so quickly. even after strauss departing last ball of the first over and trott following him back to the dressing room soon after, england's victory was never in doubt: cook and pietersen seeing england home. the winnings runs were scored with a six from pietersen off dilshan: typical eccentric, flamboyant pietersen.

now for england, a six week break before a crucial summer: west indies the visitors playing three test matches, three odis and a twenty20 match. next, five one day internationals with the old enemy, australia before the BIG one - a three test match series with south africa (followed by five odis and three twenty20 matches in preparation for the t20 world cup in sri lanka) which is likely to decide who will end the summer top of the world.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

the tale of mario balotelli and why he needs to be shown the door.

why always you mario?

as tempting as it is to write about a fantastic victory for arsenal, i am slightly disappointed that our win has effectively handed manchester united a 20th premier league trophy: as born and bred united hater, i had to pray for the impossibility of qpr winning at old trafford so if arsenal were to beat city, it wouldn't affect the title race. but a comfortable 2-0 victory for manchester united meant city had to take all three points from their match at the emirates.

controversy has been a constant through manchester city's campaign and with the carlos tevez affair, city could have been excused for a bad run in october and november but first half of the season, they played some truly brilliant football and were the envy of the rest of the premier league, including their manchester rivals who they thumped 6-1 away from home. and at the start of the new year, it looked as if big spending manchester city would win the premier league comfortably and at this time, they deserved to. kompany was immense, david silva was in terrific form and aguero looked unplayable at times.
2012 was a complete different story. it's not so much the football that we've all been focusing on but instead the behaviour of a troublesome striker from italy. the young man that mancini has put all faith in could have lost his manager his job. balotelli has an enormous amount of talent but his petulance has cost his side too many points and eventually, fans will grow tired of 'super mario'. his performance against arsenal earlier on today may have singalled the end of his manchester city career. lucky to escape an automatic red for a dangerous challenge on alex song early on, the referee booked balotelli mid way through the first half for persistent fouls: the striker was lucky the referee didn't have better views of the previous challenges or he could have been off for an early shower, A LOT earlier.
his manager had already admitted this week that he cannot trust balotelli and today, this was proved yet again. another reckless tackle, this time on sagna, towards the end of the match meant balotelli had to go. whether it be selfishness or just pure naivety, balotelli couldn't put the needs of his team above himself and this is why he needs to be sold, preferably as soon as the transfer window opens. as entertaining as he's been at times, mario is a disruptive influence in the manchester city side.

it's such a shame that balotelli will probably never reach his potential because of his attitude and behaviour. anybody taking on the challenge of mario will know it's a huge gamble, one that hasn't paid off for city or mancini.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

keep fighting, keep praying

a post dedicated to fabrice muamba & stilian petrov; all the love and support in the world in coming through the difficult times. you're fighters on the pitch and we know you are off it too.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

it's like we've been here before; first test, galle.

mainly due to persistent rain, south africa could not topple england as number one in the world rankings with a 1-0 series win in new zealand. next up for england was a two match series in sri lanka, hoping to right the wrongs of a dreadful test series in the UAE.

the setting for the first test was the beautiful galle international stadium, full of loud and proud english supporters enjoying the perfect weather. sri lanka won the toss and as expected, elected to bat. from a sri lankan perspective, there wasn't much to write home about based on the first innings, unless you go by the name of mahela jayawardene. england finally removed him early on day two after a magnificent innings of 180: saving his side from utter humiliation, an even more impressive score from the captain with very little help from his teammates, none of which stayed long enough to build a significent partnership. sri lanka clawed their way to 318 - anderson, the star of the show taking five wickets: the leader of england's bowling attack taking the prized scalp of sangakkara first ball.

after a long day in the field, many wouldn't begrudge the england bowlers a few hours rest on day two. although within two or three of hours, they were padded up and ready to bat. it was almost déjà vu for england fans: top quality batsmen undone by spin. this time however there was no excuse about facing the best spinner in the world, herath is nowhere close to ajmal. cook, pietersen and trott all getting out cheaply. the previously out of form bell was the only batsman to pass 50, as england were bowled out for just 193. to win this game england had a mountain to climb; it's obvious we can rely on the english bowlers to perform but we almost expect a collective failure from the batsmen away from home, particularly on the subcontinent.the only real entertainment from the england first innings was the last wicket partnership between anderson & panesar, putting on nearly forty runs.

at the end of day two, england were only still in the game thanks to four wickets from graeme swann. until this point swann had had an unusually quiet winter, outbowled by panesar against pakistan and effectively playing for his place in the side for the summer, ending the sri lankan second innings with figures of 6-82. p jayawardene top scoring with 61; broad thought he had jayawardene earlier on before the umpire correctly called a no ball. these extra runs could have proved crucial, which would have tipped an already frustrated broad over the edge you feel. sri lanka were all out for 214 and set england 340 to win; england were still in with a chance but they'd have to break several records in order to win in a game they'd been outplayed from almost start to finish.

with the early dimissals of cook and strauss, the latter in a particularly disappointing fashion, the game seemed to be slipping away from the tourists but at the end of day 3; a solid partnership between trott and pietersen meant england had a lifeline. losing pietersen and then bell before lunch on day four was a massive blow to england's chances. jonathan trott however was going nowhere, his conventional trott's trench was dug and the partnership with prior dramatically swung the game back in england's favour. for the first time this winter, the batsmen looked comfortable at the crease and weren't phased by the presence of spin from both ends. the innings was going almost perfectly before the dismissal of prior turned the game on its head - jonathan trott's fantastic 112 preceded a sadly predictable collapse at the hands of herath and randiv. the hosts took the last five wickets for only twelve runs and this time, the tail could not save england like it has been forced to many times before. sri lanka had deservedly won by seventy five runs and extended england's losing streak to four matches.

before the second test starts tuesday, some series issues have to be addressed regarding the batsmen's technique and mental attitude towards facing spin; in less than nine months, this side will be flying out to india where they'll be firmly out of their comfort zone. no matter how poor india have looked away from home conditions, in india they're a match for anyone.

Friday, 23 March 2012

my attempts at mystic meg for the new domestic season.

winners - durham ccc. again, it will be an exciting season which potentially could go down to the last round of fixtures again. i have predicted durham to triumph overall but expect the side from the north east to face fierce competition from the likes of lancashire, surrey, notts and somerset.
losers - fully expect worcs to struggle like they have done previously and despite a good second half of the season in 2011, i predict middlesex will join them, back in the second division in 2013.

winners - hampshire ccc. they may have struggled last year but i'm sure they will pick up plenty of points in 2012. i may have my rose tinted glasses on when i say this but my prediction for division two runners up are my beloved essex ccc. some great additions to an already balanced squad means essex will be one of the favourites to go up.

CB40 & TWENTY20:
a repeat of last year's final would be reasonably likely as surrey and somerset are probably the two best one day sides in the country but i would give surrey the edge here. as for the twenty20, look no further than somerset. surely the bookie's favourites and with an immense batting line up, 2012 will be a less frustrating year for somerset fans surely.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

mind the gap: why arsenal WILL finish third.

before arsenal and tottenham met in the north london derby two and a half weeks ago, the gap between the two sides was ten points: tottenham apparently competing for the title and arsenal in relatively poor form - in competition with chelsea, liverpool and newcastle for the prize of fourth place, the final champions league place. now, on the 14th march there is now only one point separating arsenal & spurs: a dramatic 92nd minute winner from thomas vermaelen against newcastle earned the gunners a well deserved three points against newcastle at the emirates, the centre back steaming into the penalty area from the half way line to score a close-range effort past the despairing tim krul. isn't life krul sometimes?

three reasons why arsenal will be in the champions league next season and ultimately beat tottenham in the race for third:

1. the importance of momentum and confidence

three consecutive league defeats for tottenham with arsenal winning their last four premier league games after going 1-0 down proves the gunner hsave a new found resilience: as tottenham's confidence is at an all time low, there's genuine belief amongst arsenal fans that champions league will be back at the emirates next season. it takes the extreme mental strength, often discussed by arsene wenger, to recover from such a disastrous start to the season, when a few months ago, it looked as if arsenal would struggle to get fourth place - let alone third! it would be considered one of arsene wenger's greatest achievements at arsenal if we were to finish third, after a real rollercoaster of a season (so far!)

2. focus

arsenal have a settled, happy, talented squad led by a manager who appears to be going nowhere - the same cannot said be tottenham however. harry redknapp is still the favourite for the england job and despite claims from the tottenham players, its hard to believe this speculation wouldn't affect the players.

3. robin van persie, he scores he wants

to say this man is in exceptional form is no exaggeration, no need for hyperbole: robin van persie is on fire. the equaliser against newcastle bought up his 33rd goal of the season, 26th in the premier league and as expected, this has meant van persie is hot property, now attracting interest from the likes of barcelona and moneybags manchester city, knowing rvp is still to sign a contract extension at the emirates. with champions league football looking likely and with the promise of more quality signings in the summer, why would van persie leave? this man is a great player, a great leader but an even better man - a settled, loyal family man who surely wouldn't want to leave london and specifically the emirates, a place where he is worshipped and adored. when cesc fabregas and samir moved in the summer, it was a massive loss to the arsenal side but if arsenal were to lose van persie, i believe the result would be catastrophe. arsenal have been a 'one man' team this year but it does not always have to be that way - we are just two or three class players away from a GREAT side: one which will compete for titles week in, week out.

Monday, 12 March 2012

less than a month to go...

i'm not sure the nation is collectively counting down the seconds until the return of county cricket but i for one, am incredibly excited. after all, what other ways would we rather spend our days in april than watching cricket in arctic conditions with four layers on. after a below par year in 2011, essex fans will be hoping 2012 will bring happier times: a promotion push and an appearance in either or both the CB40 final and in cardiff for twenty20 finals day. after all, what's wrong with hopeless optimism?

LV=county championship: division 2;

Thu 05 - Sun 08: Gloucestershire - Chelmsford
Thu 19 - Sun 22: Yorkshire - Headingley Carnegie
Thu 26 - Sun 29: Northamptonshire - Chelmsford

Wed 02 - Sat 05: Glamorgan - SWALEC Stadium
Wed 09 - Sat 12: Kent - Chelmsford
Wed 16 - Sat 19: Leicestershire - Grace Road
Wed 23 - Sat 26: Derbyshire - Chelmsford

Wed 11 - Sat 14: Gloucestershire - Cheltenham
Thu 19 - Sun 22: Hampshire - Chelmsford

Wed 01 - Sat 04: Leicestershire - Chelmsford (part of chelmsford festival)
Wed 08 - Sat 11: Kent - Canterbury
Wed 15 - Sat 18: Glamorgan - Colchester
Tue 28 - Fri 31: Derbyshire - Derby

Tue 04 - Fri 07: Hampshire - Rose Bowl
Tue 11 - Fri 14: Yorkshire - Chelmsford



Mon 07: Leicestershire Foxes - Grace Road
Sun 13: Worcestershire Royals - Chelmsford
Sun 20: Lancashire Lightning - Old Trafford
Tue 29: Netherlands - Excelsior CC

Mon 04: Gloucestershire Gladiators - Chelmsford

Sun 15: Gloucestershire Gladiators - Cheltenham
Wed 18: Middlesex Panthers - Chelmsford
Sun 29: Worcestershire Royals - New Road

Sun 05: Leicestershire Foxes - Chelmsford
Sun 19: Netherlands - Colchester
Thu 23: Lancashire Lightning - Chelmsford
Mon 27: Middlesex Panthers - Lord's

friends life twenty20;


Wed 13: Surrey Lions - Kia Oval
Wed 20: Kent Spitfires - Chelmsford
Thu 21: Middlesex Panthers - Lord's
Fri 22: Surrey Lions - Chelmsford
Sun 24: Sussex Sharks- Hove
Thu 28: Sussex Sharks - Chelmsford
Fri 29: Hampshire Royals - Chelmsford


Thu 5: Middlesex Panthers - Chelmsford
Fri 6: Kent Spitfires - Canterbury
Sun 8: Hampshire Royals - Rose Bowl